Forte de São João da Barra
Tavira, Portugal

Constructed: 1640 - 1670's
Used by: Portugal
Conflicts in which it participated:
Anti-Pirate Festivities

The Phonecians were the first to settle in a townlike fashion at what is today the Portuguese town of Tavira, in the 8th century BC. They called the settlement Baal Saphon, after their thunder and sea god, and it served as a thriving colonial trading center until it was destroyed by something referred to as conflict in the 6th century BC.

The Romans and then Moors occupied the region over the next several centuries, and in 1242 Tavira was reconquisted by righteous-sword-wielding forces led by Dom Paio Peres Correia (born 1205) for the greater glory of Christiandom (and Spain): Yay Christiandom (and Spain)!

As we have learned through the study of starforts, any good natural port will eventually both sprout its own town and be attacked by folks in ships. In the case of the harbor at Tavira, North African pirates sailed up and down the outer sandbar (known as the Algarve) that protects the port from the open sea, attacking shipping and occasionally raiding convenient towns through the 16th and 17th centuries. The charmingly-named Forte do Rato was built on the Algarve at the entrance to Tavira's harbor around 1550 to dissuade piratical behavior by alert Spanish authorities. Sandbars being sandbars, however, the Algarve was a constantly changing entity. By the middle of the 17th century, the Algarve had drifted far enough from where it had been when the Rat Fort had been built to necessitate a second fortification attempt.

News flash: That little tower thingie on the tip of the bastion, to which I have been referring in a disparaging fashion as a dingleberry, actually has a real name: It's a Guérite, a small lookout watchtower.
In 1640 Portugal gained its independence from Spain, and the very first thing the new kingdom did was build the Forte de São João da Barra to protect Tavira. With the assumption that if one ridiculously convoluted name is cool then three would be far cooler, the fort was also known as the Forte da Conceição and the Forte de São João Batistao, which was sure to be helpful to everyone.

Intended to serve as a bastion of alertness against seafaring enemies, the Forte de São João da Barra wasn't built with any of the supporting outerworks that were considered vital for a landward defense...but it was built with a Guérite at each of its four corners for added watchfulness purposes.

All the Guérites in the world won't help if you're just not paying attention to your duty, however. One of the Forte de São João da Barra's proud stories is that a Barbary pirate ship ran aground next to the fort on one occasion, unnoticed by its ever-vigilant garrison. A captive of the pirates is said to have scampered free from the ship and knocked on the fort's front gate, to point at the wrecked pirate ship a few hundred feet away and ask, what, is everybody in this fort stoned??

Weird inattentiveness notwith-standing, the Forte de São João da Barra went unchallenged through its career as the fierce protector of Tavira. A garrison remained until 1897, by which time the shifting sands of the Algarve had deposited the fort off the coast of Alaska (not really).

The Forte de São João da Barra was sold into private ownership in 1905. Today the fort exists as a truly impressive luxury hotel, whose representational website violently attacks you with annoying, simpery piano music, whose source you don't realize at first, leading you to furiously
Possibly the finest modern use of a starfort's corner bastion: A swimming pool!
click through everything on your screen to find the offending piano that is wafting, unbidden, from your speakers. Or maybe that's just me.